Playing Games in Ubuntu [Guide]

Ubuntu comes with a few default games upon installation, which include Mines, Mahjongg or Solitaire. While these are all right for a casual break from work, on the other hand they’re not exactly a gamer’s paradise. In this tutorial I’ll show you the many possibilities of playing games in Ubuntu, ranging from simple board ones to full-fledged shooters or strategy games.

Hundreds more games are available to install via the repositories, in Steam or by downloading packages not available in the default repositories.

For example, you can install the gnome-games or kdegames packages, which come mainly with tens of board games. Or you can install shooters like the Quake 3 clone called OpenArena or AssaultCube, or strategy games like Warzone2100 or Wesnoth, or puzzle games like Enigma. You can even play games in the terminal. See the resources section for a complete reference to games which I overviewed in the past.

But the games that ship in the repositories and are installable via the Ubuntu Software Center are not the only ones available. You can now install Steam for Linux and play free games or buy top-notch ones. Even GOG.com announced that this fall will see a number of old games ported to Linux. And for Windows-only games, there is always Wine. These too are discussed in the sections below.
Installing Games via the Ubuntu Software Center
Ubuntu comes with hundreds of games installable from the repositories, either using the Ubuntu Software Center (USC) or a terminal to do so. I will only show the basics here, but you can read a full tutorial on how to install software in Ubuntu here.

Ubuntu’s Software Center allows you to easily browse and install games with just a few clicks. The repositories contain hundreds of free games:

Let’s have a look at Battle for Wesnoth, which is one of the most complete and beautiful strategy game for Linux. To install it, you can browse the USC and install it graphically, or just open a terminal and type:
sudo apt-get install wesnoth

To install a game via the USC, search of it and then click the Install button:
Steam Games
Steam is a gaming and software platform which allows you to play free games or buy titles which until a while ago had no native ports for Linux. Ever since Steam was natively made available for Linux, the number of titles grew from a few titles like Half-Life 2 or Counter-Strike to a few hundreds now, and more are scheduled to arrive. Now Steam offers a great range, like Football Manager 2014, RUST, DotA 2.

To install Steam, download the DEB package from the website and install it by either double-clicking it or using:
sudo dpkg -i steam_latest.deb

Here is a link to 8 free games playable on Steam, including DotA 2 or Team Fortress 2.
Desura is another Linux-friendly gaming platform which can be installed from here. Desura facilitates access to many free games, some of which are already available in the repositories.
Desura will organize your games in a library and will make it easy for you to buy or install free games as well.
Games Not Available in the Repositories
Due to their non-free license, some great games are included in the Ubuntu repositories. However, these are free to play as well, and you can download and install them from their official websites. I can mention here Xonotic or Urban Terror.
Windows Games with Wine or PlayOnLinux
Wine – Wine Is Not an Emulator
Wine is an application that lets you install Windows games and applications on Linux. You can install Wine from the repositories using the USC or by typing in a terminal:
sudo apt-get install wine
To configure Wine, run the winecfg utility.

To use Wine to install software, just double-click any Windows executable or type in a terminal:
wine Program_Name.exe
Wine will keep a directory structure which resembles the one of the root Windows filesystem inside the $HOME/.wine/drive_c/ directory.
PlayOnLinux is a graphical frontend to Wine which facilitates access to hundreds of Windows games, provided you have the proper installers. You can install PlayOnLinux in Ubuntu from the repositories:
sudo apt-get install playonlinux
PlayOnLinux will let you easily install hundreds of Windows games:
Here are links to reviews I wrote in the past which cover over 100 games for Linux:

24 First-Person Shooters
8 Free Steam Games for Linux

This is a series of five articles covering completely free and open-source games which you can browse and install from the Ubuntu Software Center:

12 Completely Free, Open-Source Linux Games
5 More Completely Free, Open-Source Games for Linux
Yet Another 5 Free, Open-Source Games for Linux
Free Open-Source Games for Linux Part IV
10 More Great, Free, Open-Source Games

A great resources to keep up with new and old games is the Linux Games Database.

If you are fond of the command-line this article covers several games which you can play in the terminal. Even Emacs, the powerful development environment bundles a number of games.

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